Arugula Pesto Wheat Berries Recipe

A peppery arugula pesto tossed with a bowl of plump, chewy wheat berries. The bite of the arugula is tamed by the creaminess of the pine nuts in the pesto, and the saltiness of the grated Parmesan and chopped Kalamata olive offsets the wheat berries nicely.

Arugula Pesto Wheat Berries

I meant to post this weeks ago, but my notes were somehow buried in a blizzard of files on my desktop. Better late than never, right? Here goes. I had a good-sized bag of arugula left-over from my nephew Jack's first birthday party and needed to use it up. I decided to give the bulk of it a whirl in the food processor and turn it into an arugula pesto of sorts. Not very creative, I'll admit, but the resulting puree was great - electric-green with a peppery kick. It's just the sort of thing to slather on a sandwich, dollop over hot pasta, or you can do what I did, and work it through a bowl of plump, chewy wheat berries. The bite of the arugula is tamed by the creaminess of the pine nuts, and the saltiness of the grated Parmesan and chopped Kalamata olive offsets the wheat berries nicely.

At $1 per pound the Massa Organics wheat berries were the deal of the year for me. I usually hit the Massa stand for their brown rice (which they are famous for) or their almond butter - but couldn't resist the wheat berries when I came across them. These wheat berries have a beautiful, barely-noticeable red blush when cooked, and they plump into perfect oblong orbs that look like they might pop between your molars.

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Arugula Pesto Wheat Berries Recipe

While this is a great salad, I wanted to make more of a meal out of it so I threw in some seitan. Wayne brings home packets of Sweet Earth brand seitan, and I like it. I also noted that cubes of cooked potatoes would be great here.

3 cups cooked wheat berries*
3 medium garlic cloves
2/3 cup pine nuts (or sliced almonds), toasted (divided)
3 cups loosely packed arugula leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 big pinches salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup black Kalamata olives, chopped
4 - 6 ounces seitan, (optional), chopped and pan-fried into crispy bits in a bit of oil
a bit of shaved Parmesan as garnish

Place the wheat berries in a large mixing bowl and set them aside so they can come up to room temperature if you've had them in the refrigerator.

In the meantime, make the arugula pesto by combining the garlic, 1/2 cup of the pine nuts, most of the arugula, Parmesan, salt, and lemon juice in a food processor. Pulse a few times, and then begin to drizzle the olive oil into the mixture while continuing to pulse until the pesto is smooth. Taste, and adjust if needed with more salt or lemon juice.

Pour about half of the pesto over the wheat berries, add the seitan if you are using it, the reserved arugula, and about 1/4-1/2 cup of hot water (or reserved water from cooking the wheat berries). Toss until everything is well-coated. Add more pesto a bit at a time until the wheat berries are dressed to your liking - I actually go a bit on the heavy side with this particular combination.

Arrange on a platter and top with the olives, remaining pine nuts, and a bit of shaved Parmesan.

*To cook wheat berries: Combine 2 cups wheat berries, 6 cups water, and 2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, until plump and chewy (and a few of the berries split open), about an hour or so. The berries will stay al dente, and the only way to be sure they're done is to taste a few. Drain and set aside.

Serves 6 as a side, less as a main.

Prep time: 15 minutes - Cook time: 10 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!
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Heidi, I love your cookbook and visit your site often where I print out recipes to try for the day. I especially loved the buttermilk summer squash and the Asparagus salad recipes. I only have one request which is would you be so kind as to add the prep/cooking time to your recipe. An estimate would do. Sometimes I am not perceptive enough to figure out until I am halfway though cooking. Thanks!


Hi Heidi,
I must admit, though I eat a lot of veggie fare, I’ve never been a huge fan of seitan before trying one of your recipes. I won’t say that I am head over heals yet for the texture, but I do love the way it will “beef” up a veggie meal like this one. Do you ever cook with veggie sausages or any other imitation meats? I was against these as well until I tried this dish:
I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor. Perhaps worth a try 🙂 Best, Phoebe
HS: Hi Phoebe – I don’t typically use many meat substitutes, over the years I’ve really tried to move away from most of the pre-packaged foods – veg or not. BUT, that being said, I do like the Field Roast Celebration Loaf quite a lot – a friend turned me on to it, and now on occasion I slice it, pan-fry it (no oil needed) – until it is browned. It’s really tasty. I spoke with someone from the company a while back and they told me about how they make them in small batches and use a relatively small number whole ingredients. If you haven’t tried it you should.


Made this tonight but with whole grain pasta (couldn’t find wheat berries around here either…) and it was so delicious! Thanks so much for the inspiration!


Many thanks to Elaine, above – I am leaving next week for two + weeks in Umbria & environs, and really appreciate the tip about dining at Nonna Gelsa. Will be sure to have the arugula pesto pasta there!


I love the recipes, love arugula and wheatberries. I import recipes into a database, usually with pictures. But I can’t copy your images. They are so lovely I’d like to have them in the database to remind me how the dish should look. Any suggestions?


All kosher cheeses are veggie-friendly and you can certainly buy kosher parmesan in London or have it sent from


Just tried this recipe for dinner tonight and it did not disappoint at all. The pesto was so delicious I found myself wanting to eat it by the spoonful. The wheat berries paired w/fresh arugula pesto made for such a welcome change from pasta & my usual basil pesto. Thanks for another great pairing!


Thanks a lot! I’m also a gourmet and pastry enthusiast and this would really go to my compilation. I would also like to share. I came across a good site about European and Swiss cooking which also gives free sample family-secret recipes.

Leon Gregory

I’m confused about Parmesan. I understand that it and other hard cheeses can’t be made from all veggie-friendly ingredients because it requires animal based rennet. I notice you use it a lot, though. Am I missing something? Or is there some version of vegetarian parmesan you can get in SF that I can’t get in the UK?


I love wheat berries and arugula, but have never combined them. I have found I like the soft wheat berries best.
I cant wait to try this recipe. Thanks


Hi Heidi – love your food – your cookbook changed my whole cooking repertoire! Just wondered – I live in Perth, Western Australia and even though we are a wheat growning nation, I really struggle to get wheat berries. Can you suggest something else I can replace it with. I have tried barley but I don’t think the consistency was what you meant. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Ainslie
HS: Hmm. I wonder if you used whole barley or pearled? Pearled barley would def. have a much different thing going on (I like to use pearled barley in risotto-style preparations)…Can you find grains labeled as whole farro? I’d look for that.


I’ve been experimenting with combining wheat berries with sauteed mushrooms (shitaake especially) and onions. I food process the onion/mushroom mix because it seems to diffuse the flavor in a way I like. I usually add parsley, but the addition of just the whole arugula leaves would really give the dish zip. I love thinking food!


Ok, I tried again but I’m still not a fan of wheat berries. BUT – the arugala pesto recipe is *awesome*!! I’ve always wondered why I don’t like basil pesto as much as I feel like I should. Now I know why – because this is out there and is so much better!
To note – I’m vegan(ish) so I didn’t include the parmesan, and it was still beyond wonderful. I did add a little nutrional yeast, but I bet it would be fine without that.


Somewhat (okay, kind of completely) unrelated to the post, but: does anybody here know of a great book for pasta making? I’m thinking something along the lines of Reinhardt’s _The Bread Baker’s Apprentice_ & Peterson’s _Sauces_. Anything you’ve got is great!

the adw

I love your Photos!


I love Arugula first time I had Arugula was mabey three year’s ago at a beautiful Spa .. looks beautiful and Delicious .
Thanks for sharing your recipe:)
Have a Great Day ~~~


I absolutely love pesto, but never tried arugula pesto, sure it will be great. In fact I’ve never tried wheat berries before either so am looking forward to this one.
One thing is for sure – looks pretty good for you!


I have to try this. I’ve never had wheat berries before. In fact I have yet to try farro yet either. I need to branch out from just rice & pasta.


I’ve been wanting to try wheat berries for the longest time. This recipe has inspired me! Thanks for sharing. I stumbled upon your site a few weeks ago and have to check in daily to see what’s cooking!

Michele Coakley

Heidi, I just wanted to let you know i love your site…Thanks Duncan Santa Barbara…its Fiesta time


This looks terrific!
I was just in Umbria for two weeks and had Arugula Pesto on pasta filled with almond & pear. It was amazing. It was a place called Nonna Gelsa in Niccone & it’s a member of the slow food network.
I love your site.


You always have the best photos on your posts on this website. I can’t believe how awesome that photo of the Arugula Pesto Wheat Berries recipe looks. I wish my presentation was as good as yours when I cook for friends.


Wow $1 a pound! What an amazing deal. This meal looks amazing and really delicious. I love how fresh it looks:)

Nutmeg Nanny

OK, “first birthday” and “arugula” don’t usually go together, but good for you for using up the stuff in your fridge and good for us that you whipped up what looks like a delicious recipe! It’s on my list for dinner next week. Thanks!

Sarah I.

I made a dish last night based off this recipe. Black beans and quinoa took the place of wheat berry’s and seitan, almonds instead of pine nuts. My pesto turned out delish- with a 1/4 teaspoon on sesame oil for a super nutty taste. I added some whole sprouts and lots of lemon. it was wonderful, can’t wait for the leftovers for lunch.


With all the wet, cool weather on the east coast this summer… I have a bumper crop of arugula. This recipe looks fantastic, and will be put to good use this weekend.
Its easy for a gardener to fall in love with 101 cookbooks.
Thank you so much, as always.
Michaela – The Gardener’s Eden

The Gardener's Eden

Thanks for the great insight on wheat berries. I’ve always wanted to cook with them, but never found a recipe that completely attracted me. I’ve been reading your blog for a few years now and have linked you as a favorite blog on my new site! Hope you come check it out.


I’m ashamed to say I have never tried wheatberries, but I am certainly encouraged to do so now with this recipe.
The arugula pesto sounds like a wonderful combination of flavors, and I look forward to trying it myself.


Great recipe! We just ordered some organic rice and wheatberries from Massa organics, and we look forward to cooking them in our solar oven.


This looks so great, as usual. Interestingly, I just told my sister-in-law to get more wheat berries into her diet. They are amazingly high in selenium, a mineral that helps convert Thyroxin (T-4, thyroid hormone) to the active T3.
Perfect timing.

Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen

Oh, Heidi!
This is JUST what I’ve been meaning to do w/ the surplus of arugula in my garden – thanks for reminding me!


Heidi, do you ever soak your grains overnight before cooking? I find soaking in water with a splash of vinegar or lemon juice makes them a bit fluffier and cooks more quickly. Thanks for another great recipe to try!

Michelle @ Find Your Balance

Wow! I love the idea of arugula pesto–especially in a grain salad! Yum! thanks!


Oh so healthy!

The Duo Dishes

What a beautiful salad. I have been obsessed with arugula lately and this pesto looks like the perfect fix.


I love arugula and would be anxious to try this but have no idea where to find wheat berries!
Is this a health food store staple? Can you mention a chain grocery that stocks it and in what department?


I am having a hard time finding out if a wheat berry is a fancy name for a whole wheat kernel. Does anyone know? Thanks!


Wheat berries are so fun…great texture mix in this salad!


As usual this looks great (LOVE arugula), but I couldn’t get past “had a good-sized bag of arugula left over from my nephew’s first birthday party.” That set my mind off on “Arugula – strange birthday present” and “Even stranger birthday cake” 😀


I’m curious to know what wheat berries taste like – seems like they would be dry.

nithya at hungrydesi

Now that is a high-fiber dish that I’d be more than happy to dig my fork into. The arugula pesto sounds lovely.

Cookin' Canuck

Heidi, Thanks for another great recipe. So healthy too.


This looks pretty tasty! We made wheat berries in class the other night and I tried them for the first time. They are truly delicious, and maybe I”ll use this recipe for my first excursion at home! thanks!

Heather @ chik n pastry

What a great use of arugala – not boring at all!
Now I want to make a sammie with it!


Heidi –
This dish is at once simple, elegant, and hearty!
Have you ever tried toasting the wheat berries before cooking them?… I love the nuttiness it brings out!

Michelle @

We are surrounded by wheat fields where we live in CA! Needless to say, I have two 5-gallon buckets full of wheat berries, and could only think to make flour out of them, but this sounds amazing! I can’t wait to try it!


Somehow you manage to make even the simplest of dishes look elegant and delectable.
>>Sarah – yes, wheat berries and farro are only slightly different (both from wheat family – farro is spelt.) I substitute farro all the time.


I’ve recently fallen in love with wheatberries. Mixing in a pesto is a wonderful idea! This sounds delicious.


Wheat berries! I haven’t used them for years since I last put them in bread.
Pesto, I used to love basil pesto, but it doesn’t love me any more (repeats, as they say). I’d have to use another sauce unless the arugula leaves are different from basil which is used for many ordinary pesto recipes. I might have to give the arugula leaves pesto a try!


There’s nothing like pesto in the summer. How refreshing to find such an original use for my favorite flavor!


Thanks for sharing! I love arugula pesto. The wheatberries look amazing. I wish I could get ahold of great, quality ingredients where I live!

Lisa A.

Yumm, love creative pestos! We just tried an artichoke pesto that came out great! (Artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, s&p)


Arugula pesto is awesome, I use any green that is going bad and turn it into pesto! I’m gluten free but there are so many places to put pesto!

Hannah (Hannah's Harvest)

I love arugula pesto too and could eat it on everything. I usually make mine with walnuts and lots of lemon juice and toss in a handful of parsley if I have some around. Trader Joe’s makes a nice grain mix with mung beans, Israeli couscous, quinoa, and orzo and I usually toss a bunch of pesto on that for dinners in the summer.


Hi Heidi,
I bought a bag of farro and have discovered that it is whole farro, which I believe I need to soak before cooking. Could I use that instead of the wheat berries? Are whole farro and wheat berries different?


A meal for Obama, no?

Mama JJ

Hello Heidi,
I love arugula pesto! But never tried it on wheat berries – or I wonder if I have ever had wheat berries, even. Maybe I have, maybe not. They might be a bit hard to find here anyways, so I guess I’d try pearled barley or farro instead.


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